Money tops the 2012 rich list
Floyd Mayweather has usurped Tiger Woods in becoming 2012’s richest sportsperson, according to Forbes magazine.
The self-proclaimed ‘Moneyman’ has racked up $85 million (£54.03 million) in a year that has seen him take on Victor Ortiz and Miguel Cotto in high-profile fights.
This sees him earn $23 million (£14.62 million) more than second-placed Manny Pacquiao – his great rival.
But the true story is the change boxing has undergone: from leaving its fighters out of pocket and crawling back into the ring for another payday, to becoming a lucrative sport that now boasts the year’s two wealthiest individuals.
It is true that it wasn’t always the case that boxing paid stingily, but often there was not enough for the boxer once his entourage had been paid, or worse still, because crooked managers/promoters took unreasonable percentages of a boxer’s cut.
At the same time though, boxing has not always been as financially supportive as it should be.
Some of the sweet science’s greatest practitioners have ended up penniless with the likes of Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis as the starkest examples, whilst countless others have been left ‘punch drunk’ from having to take too many beatings too often in order to sustain a standard of living.
Fighters put their bodies and lives on the line whenever they step into the ring, something that is very difficult to put a value on.
And whilst boxers like Mayweather and Pacquiao only tend to fight twice per year, you have to think – if they can generate the pay-per-view interest they do – they literally are as much as they are worth, whatever people will pay to watch them.
In Mayweather’s case, self-promotion has worked plentifully for him as it gives him the chance to utilise his skills of braggadocio and trash-talking, but it also allows him to govern who he fights.
Mayweather claimed the latter stopped him fighting Pacquiao in May, as Bob Arum promotes the Filipino.
It also helps that Mayweather has fought in the cash capital of Las Vegas for 18 of his 43 bouts and all of his last eight.
Even from jail, it is likely that Mayweather will be smiling once he is told this news.
Many also pay to see him lose – which he has still yet to do – as he is somewhat of a marmite character, with many hating his boastful ways the same way others admire his ability to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.
But as already said, boxing has not always been in this money-filled state, so what enabled it to happen?
Fighters like Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and Mike Tyson, who all transcended boxing in their own way, ensured that paydays would be better for their successors.
Ali and Leonard are to praise/blame in particular. Ali for his outrageous promotional tactics that – along with winning many huge fights – made him a superstar and made people want to pay to see him fight, promote a brand, or be a guest on a talk-show.
Leonard simply demanded that his prestigious boxing skills be met with higher payment, in a very similar way to Nigel Mansell in Formula One.
He was nearly always paid more than his opponents and in some cases double.
This was because, like Mayweather, he made himself the person that everyone wanted to beat. As he constantly puts it: “43 have tried, and 43 have failed”.
He became the best in the weight classes he fought in and his strong self-belief alienated him and made him a target for many fighters.
So really, boxing has become more profitable living at the top because the fighters have tested just how much fans are willing to pay to view their fights, whether in the arena itself, or on the television.
The fact is, boxers deserve what they earn and all fans clearly think along the same lines because they choose to reach into their pockets to buy these pay-per-view packages.
And until they stop doing so, it is hard to imagine anyone else but the charismatic Mayweather as – to use another of his proclamations – the pay-per-view king.